No background details needed here, apart from the fact perhaps that we now see Mayhem on new label Century Media; they had a good run on Season Of Mist. This is all about the music and not the infamy of the band which has been dredged up by “that” film and brought even more hipsters to the group’s music and shows. Thankfully a brief encounter has been enough to scare them back into whatever next scene is getting all the media attention and good riddance; this is not music for the masses, never was and never was meant to. The skewed lurches and non-linear approach that has been forged over the last couple of albums Ordo Ad Chao 2007 and Esoteric Warfare 2014 is not quite as prolific this time around. It feels on first listen that Mayhem have gone back to the song-writing here in a bit more of a co-ordinated style and have perhaps made the listening experience not quite as experimental. Don’t let that put you off in the slightest though this is still very much riddled with fetid filth, sheer malevolence and the stinking grave dirt reek of horror in the atmosphere, making it a particularly nasty album to encounter either accidently or on purpose. Maybe it is more of an orthodox album for them and with 12 tracks on the bonus edition and the download we have been provided to review it one of the longest running at just shy of the hour mark.

No subtle build up here we are flung straight into the tempest of ‘The Dying False King’ with rapid strumming guitars from Teloch and Ghul, the lethal trademark drum blows of Hellhammer, thick and booming bass lines of Necrobutcher and of course those rancid gurgles and croaks from the ever-expressive Attila Csihar. The cast-list dispensed with, we swing through various moods and emotions, the tempo settling to doomy, craggy troughs and rising again. Austere operatic vocals grow in the background and the overall tone is ill-spirited and incredibly nasty leaving you feeling like you have really crawled out a tomb reanimated and hungry for flesh. Necrotic gurgles and a sense of gloom pervade as things swagger into ‘Agenda Ignis’ some classic tones and underlying melody make no mistake that this is the real “true” deal and not one of the many copyists out there. Tricks are traded with the tempo being really versatile here and the musicianship flows incredibly tightly and well-coordinated, the blackness somewhat progressively furrowed and allowed to breathe rather than coming at you in an ever-relenting swarm. Thought has gone into things here from the injection of foul atmosphere from Attila’s ghastly cackles to the stealth of the attacking sections. When they come on numbers like the virulent plague-bearing ‘Bad Blood’ they infect and spread like foul disease. Don’t be surprise here to find a subtle bass solo and a more flamboyant one from guitar, each instrument has a powerful presence in the mix and naturally none more than that hideous and ever-changing vocal sermon.

There are a few things to listen out for during the hellish underworld trip. The classic olden sound of the band’s early creativity can be heard riddled over ‘Malum’ with Attila taking us down into the depths of occultism with his devilish sermon. I suspect this one’s evilness will be a sure fire winner when encountered live and indeed it will be great to encounter a smattering of tracks here breathing fresh death into the forthcoming tour. Then there’s the strange synthesized pulses pervading ‘Falsified And Hated’ sounding like they have arrived from the dawn of the Norwegian 2nd wave and adding a touch of dank dungeon synth to the otherwise wild and tempestuously weaving number. There’s plenty going on and a lot to take in, new things to be discovered every listen as the labyrinthine corridors and secret passages unveil themselves. Watch out for booby traps like the sudden explosive percussion blast on the deadly and possibly fastest number ‘Aeon Daemonium.’ There’s also a bit of a surprise to be found on ‘Daemon Spawn’ with some subtle underlying symphonic elements, adding a touch of flair and pomposity to the vile gibbering madness. As for the “Horns of stench and tail of slime” already illustrated on the video for ‘Of Worms And Ruin” pure hateful malignancy.

The bad news of those wanting to save a few pennies here is that you are really going to want to plump for the special edition with the two extra tracks (yeah I’m not a fan of such marketing techniques either) as they are no simple cast offs but fit neatly alongside the main decaying body of work. In fact, as far as closer ‘Black Glass Communion’ is concerned there’s a bit of a ‘Deathcrush’ swagger to be found.

2019 has proven an excellent year for black metal and it is far from over yet. The Norse legions such as Darkthrone, 1349, Abbath, Kampfar and of course Mayhem have been at the top proving traditions will not be allowed to die. Naturally this is an essential album for many but only those who can cope with a bitter and cold misanthropic approach need apply.

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)